Monday was a day of high drama in Sydney media circles as Sam Chisholm, John Singleton and Alan Jones attempted to injunct that night’s Media Watch program.
Media Watch got their hands on a damning preliminary report by the Australian Broadcasting Authority into the scandalous Telstra sponsorship of the Alan Jones breakfast show on 2GB which most independent observers believe is another obvious case of cash for comment.
However, the preliminary report was subsequently toned right down after the intervention of ABA chairman David Flint (a Howard backer like the Parrot and also a Liberal Party member) and others, primarily a fellow called Giles Tanner.
As Sam Chisholm was being inducted into the Television Hall of Fame at The Logies on Sunday night and more than two million Australians were watching Alan Jones’ tribute to his chairman and mate on Channel Nine, Macquarie Radio, owner of 2GB, was conceiving a daring legal challenge before the NSW Supreme Court the next morning.
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At first Macquarie Radio did obtain an injunction in a closed court without the presence of the ABC on Monday morning. However, Justice Windeyer then heard argument from both sides from 2pm and at 4.45pm he decided the show much go on.
The “if you’re watching this I’ve been murdered” back up recording by presenter David Marr will now only be shown at the Media Watch Christmas Party.
Plaintiff lawyers claim that injunctions are hard to get in Australian courts because the defamation laws provide for relief by way of damages. Faced with injunction requests, a Judge will usually conclude that the applicant can sue for damages if their name is blackened so why stand in the way of the publication in the first place.
Crikey hears that Media Watch were first leaked the damning preliminary report late last week. After sending some questions to the ABA they immediately got a letter from the Australian Government Solicitor threatening to injunct the program.
Gee, is that the way a regulator of our media should behave?
The ABA subsequently became less adversarial and even provided a briefing to Media Watch but they also provided copies of the damning preliminary report to Telstra, Alan Jones and Macquarie Radio.
They were obviously so embarrassed by what they read that a daring injunction attempt was considered the best course of action, even though the three colourful Sydney business identities would have known that failure would dramatically increase the publicity with missives such as this flying around the public domain.
David Marr opened his analysis of the leaked report with these comments:
“Earlier today Macquarie Radio tried to bump us off, but here we are after all.
“Alan Jones’ Sydney station did not want us to discuss in any way an Australian Broadcasting Authority document leaked to us last week.
It’s a feisty draft report of the ABA’s investigation into Telstra’s sponsorship of Jones’ breakfast show and the near-miraculous conversion of Jones from critic to warm friend of the mighty telco.
And it really makes you wonder if the ABA, ever had the ticker to take on the nation’s most influential broadcaster.”
If you didn’t see it you can read the full transcript here: Does the ABA have the ticker?
The court action has had some coverage in the papers. The SMH and The Age had this report: “Move to gag ABC show over Jones item”